It is well understood in the fresh produce sector that technology can make everyday production easier. Labour costs typically account for +-60% of total costs on a fruit and vegetable farm. One company has been ‘making things easier’ for 26 years.
Farm Costing Solutions builds and supplies proprietary IT systems, offering farm administrators real-time data recording of remotely located labour and production related agricultural activities. This integrated management control system allows for a huge saving on production costs. This has been done with extensive research and input from the agricultural sector.
“We are data collection specialists and collect raw data from the orchard for Time Attendance, Piecework and Job Costing,” explains Val Harker Marketing Director at the company. “It’s the simplicity of the system that makes it so successful. It is made easy for the teams in the orchard and the users in the office.”
“The data is collected by a hand held reader/device in the orchard and clockings are transferred via GSM to the FCS software application system which is written in SQL. This data can be checked at the end of the day or throughout the day,” according to Lourens van de Merwe Technical Manager. Should cell phone connectivity be non existent we can download the information using other alternatives in getting the information to the office, through experience most farms have connectivity problems, those farmers are definitely not left behind with technology.
“We measure the productivity of each worker; we also calculate how much to pay each worker through our payroll. The system collects all the data in harsh conditions and provides statistics on costs per farm/orchard/commodity/activity/variety/person on a daily basis. This allows the company to see where they are spending money and if they are going over budget and allows them to rectify this right away and not wait until all the figures are in at the end of the season.”
Everything is done in-house at FCS from design to manufacture of hardware, developing software, marketing, sales and support. FCS covers the whole of the Horticultural sector although it can be used in any other sector.
The company also have systems operating in Australia.
“Growers from South Africa moved out to Australia and couldn’t find a system to compare with ours so they asked us set it up for them. We also operate in Zimbabwe and Namibia, 90% of Namibia’s Table Grape growers use FCS,” said Val.
“We have been doing this for 26 years, listening to the growers and developing according to their feedback and changing needs. It is 100% accurate and gives our customers peace of mind.”
The system is very cost effective, and customers can choose different packages.
“The clients say the system pays for itself within the first 1-2 seasons, but feedback from some customers shows it paid for itself well within the first season. The major cost efficiencies are in monitoring the labour, it is done through the system so a marker for each team is no longer needed which frees up labour and because the system works out the wages, there is no paperwork or long queues for wages on a Friday and no disputes over the amount paid out. The grower can see day to day which workers pick the most to the least, they can then assist them to work more efficiently to make up their day wage. The system highlights the weak workers as well as the weak team leaders, action can be taken immediately to solve this problem.
“The system is flexible and can be customised to individual grower’s needs. We are also open to expanding into new markets such as South America.”